STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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State Governors talk third grade reading; the new pre-K?

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The Washington Postis convening three governors (NM, DE, MS) and several State School Superintendents to talk  this morning about third grade reading scores. That indicator may get more attention in Michigan now that there is a plan for expanding early education.

High quality preschool is linked to better third grade reading scores. And third grade scores are very accurate predictors of high school graduation.

Now that the state budget seems to insure that more kids in Michigan will have access to high quality preschool, the state will need to focus on third grade outcomes to judge, in part, its investment. 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, of Kids Count fame, is funding the panel as part of what is being called the Campaign for Third Grade Reading. The foundation also put out a special Kids Count data book on third grade reading scores.

All across the country, it's not pretty. A full 68 % of kids in fourth grade are below reading level nationwide. Michigan has 70% falling behind by fourth grade.

Two of the Governors talking to the Post are Republicans, and one is a Democrat, so there were familiar partisan pitches; New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez is not supportive of the Common Core and talked about merit pay for teachers, while Democratic Governor Jack Markell from Delaware praised the Obama Administration's Race to Top program. 

But the Governor's are united over wanting to push their state's to improve third grade reading scores. All of them are pushing this as an area of focus for their administrations. New Mexico has a home visiting program focusing on absenteeism, for example. Delaware focuses on early education. Mississippi is putting a lot of eggs in the school choice basket. 

The Post is planning to reconvene the Governors of the same states in five years to see how scores have improved. Right now, Mississippi and New Mexico are among a group of states with the poorest scores, and Delaware is among the best. You can catch the Washington Post live stream until 11:00 a.m. E.S.T., and check back  with them for analysis. 

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